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Just watched the recent episode s04e08. The finale is awesome and in cruelty even overcomes the Red Wedding, IMHO.

But something is not clear to me. Tywin Lannister earlier in season made a serious alliance offer to the Dorne, therefore such a finale was definitely not what he wanted; it would not help to make alliance with the Dorne at all. After all, Tywin does not hate his son Tyrion so strongly.

So, my question is this:

  • Did Tywin really instruct the Mountain that he could actually kill the opponent?
  • Or did Tywin instruct the Mountain just to deliver a knockout and

that last minute of the show is Mountains furious attempt to defeat the opponent at any price and he disobeyed the instruction of his master?

I personally assume the second option, since most of the people believed that Mountain could defeat anyone, and

no one, even Tyrion, expected, that Viper would actually manage to wound the Mountain and bring him to the ground?

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In the question that (maybe) inspired this one, I said that I had just read in ASOS that Tywin said to Tyrion (before Joffrey died) that he intended to keep Gregor as far away from Oberyn as possible. That he would then let Cersei make Gregor her champion sounds very contradictory. He knows that Oberyn is reckless and overproud and an accomplished fighter and crazy enough to challenge Gregor. So maybe that was his intention all along, if Gregor wins, Oberyn dies -- problem solved. If Oberyn wins, Gregor dies -- problem solved. –  TLP Jun 4 at 13:34
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I think that while Ser Gregor is the lap dog of the Lannisters, he is also a murderous psychopath and incapable of just delivering a "knockout". He is known to act on impulse, even killing his own henchmen out of rage. Tywin is a clever guy, and I'm pretty sure he knows he cannot trust The Mountain to deliver a nonlethal blow. So it stands to reason the fight is against Tywin's wishes. –  Andres F. Jun 4 at 13:37
    
It's made clear elsewhere that a trial by combat is expected to be a fight to the death. The combatants are trying to kill, not deliver a "knockout blow". One fighter may end the combat by yielding and admitting defeat, but this is highly unlikely from either Oberyn or the Mountain. Both of them would have expected to kill or be killed. –  Royal Canadian Bandit Jun 4 at 22:28

2 Answers 2

up vote 10 down vote accepted

This answer is based on A Storm of Sword and A Feast for Crows, so it will contain spoilers

The fight between Oberyn and Gregor was not part of Tywin's plan, however it was out of his control. As the mother of Joffrey, it was Cersei who chose Gregor as champion. Additionally, Tywin didn't know that Oberyn would volunteer as Tyrion's champion. So the whole fight was out of his hands. Tywin (and everybody else) was surprised that Oberyn volunteered as Tyrion's champion. Nobody thought that somebody, especially a Prince, would volunteer to fight the Mountain, particularly to save Tyrion.

[A Storm of Swords:Fire and Gold Spoilers]

It was Mace Tyrell who turned to Tyrion and asked the question. “Do you have a champion to defend your innocence?”
“He does, my lord.” Prince Oberyn of Dorne rose to his feet. “The dwarf has quite convinced me.”
The uproar was deafening. Tyrion took especial pleasure in the sudden doubt he glimpsed in Cersei’s eyes. It took a hundred gold cloaks pounding the butts of their spears against the floor to quiet the throne room again. By then Lord Tywin Lannister had recovered himself. “Let the issue be decided on the morrow,” he declared in iron tones. “I wash my hands of it.” He gave his dwarf son a cold angry look, then strode from the hall, out the king’s door behind the Iron Throne, his brother Kevan at his side.
...

No matter what happened, Tyrion had the satisfaction of knowing that he’d kicked Lord Tywin’s plans to splinters. If Prince Oberyn won, it would further inflame Highgarden against the Dornish; Mace Tyrell would see the man who crippled his son helping the dwarf who almost poisoned his daughter to escape his rightful punishment. And if the Mountain triumphed, Doran Martell might well demand to know why his brother had been served with death instead of the justice Tyrion had promised him. Dorne might crown Myrcella after all. It was almost worth dying to know all the trouble he’d made.

We learn before the fight that Tywin was planning on lying to Oberyn, and saying that it was Amory Lorch, not Gregor, who killed Elia and her children.

[A Storm of Swords:Fire and Gold Spoilers]

“And when Oberyn demands the justice he’s come for?”
“I will tell him that Ser Amory Lorch killed Elia and her children,” Lord Tywin said calmly. “So will you, if he asks.”
“Ser Amory Lorch is dead,” Tyrion said flatly.
“Precisely. Vargo Hoat had Ser Amory torn apart by a bear after the fall of Harrenhal. That ought to be sufficiently grisly to appease even Oberyn Martell.”
“You may call that justice...
“It is justice. It was Ser Amory who brought me the girl’s body, if you must know. He found her hiding under her father’s bed, as if she believed Rhaegar could still protect her. Princess Elia and the babe were in the nursery a floor below.”
“Well, it’s a tale, and Ser Amory’s not like to deny it. What will you tell Oberyn when he asks who gave Lorch his orders?”
“Ser Amory acted on his own in the hope of winning favor from the new king. Robert’s hatred for Rhaegar was scarcely a secret.”

~ A Storm of Swords

However Tyrion later reveals the truth to Oberyn (or part of it).

[A Storm of Swords:Fire and Gold Spoilers]

“I am not lying. Ser Amory dragged Princess Rhaenys out from under her father’s bed and stabbed her to death. He had some men-at-arms with him, but I do not know their names.” He leaned forward. “It was Ser Gregor Clegane who smashed Prince Aegon’s head against a wall and raped your sister Elia with his blood and brains still on his hands.”
“What is this, now? Truth, from a Lannister?” Oberyn smiled coldly. “Your father gave the commands, yes?”
“No.” He spoke the lie without hesitation, and never stopped to ask himself why he should.

Following the fight between Gregor and Oberyn, as Gregor is dying, and confessed during the fight, Tywin plans on giving him to the Martells. He tries to get Pycelle to save him, so that he can deliver him to the Martells alive.

[A Storm of Swords:Fire and Gold Spoilers]

“Then I fear Ser Gregor may die.”
“Undoubtedly. I swore as much in the letter I sent to Prince Doran with his brother’s body. But it must be seen to be the sword of the King’s justice that slays him, not a poisoned spear. Heal him.

However when it is clear he is going to die, delivering his head suffices.

[A Feast for Crows spoilers]

When he dies, bring me his head. My father promised it to Dorne. Prince Doran would no doubt prefer to kill Gregor himself, but we all must suffer disappointments in this life.

~Cersei to Qyburn (who is treating Gregor) in A Feast For Crows

[A Feast for Crows spoilers]

“His long wait is almost done. I am sending Balon Swann to Sunspear, to deliver him the head of Gregor Clegane.” Ser Balon would have another task as well, but that part was best left unsaid.
“Ah.” Ser Harys Swyft fumbled at his funny little beard with thumb and forefinger. “He is dead then? Ser Gregor?”
“I would think so, my lord,” Aurane Waters said dryly. “I am told that removing the head from the body is often mortal.”

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Additionally, Tywin didn't know that Oberyn would volunteer as Tyrion's champion - I believe in the paragraphs where Oberyn actually volunteers it is made clear that this was a surprise to everyone in attendance. This may be a useful quote to add to the answer. +1 even as it is now though. –  ssell Jun 4 at 15:57
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@ssell good point, I've added that quote –  Moogle Jun 4 at 16:06
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Reading through that quote it reminded me of the Highgarden-factor to this whole ordeal. Its not just a matter of appeasing Dorne, but the Tyrells as well who are the strongest backers of the Throne after House Lannister. –  ssell Jun 4 at 16:17
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@ssell Definitely. However my answer is long enough as it is without expanding on Lannister-Tyrell relations. –  Moogle Jun 4 at 18:28
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+1 Such a good answer. I've added spoiler tags for people who haven't read the books yet. –  Mooz Jun 4 at 21:29

Well, Tywin couldn't instruct the Mountain not to kill his opponent.

A trial by combat comes to an end only when one of the contestants is dead or yields (See here for more information: What are the rules of Trial by Combat in Game of Thrones? ).

This means that since Oberyn chose to fight for Tyrion, either he or the Mountain would have to die/yield. Tywin could not interfere because that would be against the rules (and possibly offensive to the Gods, since in a Trial by Combat, it is considered that the Gods are the Judges).

As far as the last part of your question, Oberyn is a pretty infamous warrior. I don't know if people actually believed that he could kill the Mountain, but they must have thought that he would give quite a fight.

And yes, this would not be good for the Lannister - Dorne friendship. But also, think that after the King's Landing sacking during Robert's Rebellion, Tywin ordered everyone dead; that included Elia Martell, Oberyn's sister. So the friendship wasn't so good after that anyways.

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@SPIRiT_1984 Even if the rules of trial by combat allowed it, I don't think Tywin could have ordered the Mountain to yield at all. Ser Gregor knows nothing about honor; there is no indication he would obey an order to lose the fight (and even less to commit suicide). He is an untrustworthy psychopath who just happens to be a bannerman of the Lannisters. It's one thing to order him to kill (that's just what he does of his own will, after all) and another to tell him to lose. –  Andres F. Jun 4 at 13:41
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@SPIRiT_1984 To expand on Andres F.'s comment (which I agree with completely), I doubt Tywin could have ordered Ser Gregor to even accept a yield, if Oberyn had offered one. After all, we're talking about the man who murdered his own horse, and tried to murder his victorious opponent, Ser Loras Tyrell, after the joust was over. –  Beofett Jun 4 at 14:26
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The only way Oberyn was going to offer yield was if the Mountain confessed and implicated Tywin. So really everyone's hands were tied by Oberyn declaring himself Tyrion's champion. –  System Down Jun 4 at 14:51
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Tywin regards Gregor as little more than a wild animal. His sole talent, as far as Tywin is concerned, is the unique fear he generates when on the rampage. Tywin fully intends to give him up to Dorne as a peace-offering, after he's got as much use out of him as possible. Having Oberyn fight Gregor is awkward as a Gregor victory means peace with Dorne is more difficult and an Oberyn victory means he'll probably have to make another concession. I agree with others that Gregor would not accept a yield anyway. –  TheMathemagician Jun 4 at 14:54
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I don't believe Oberyn would have accepted/offered a yield either at that point. His primary purpose in coming to King's Landing was to kill the murderer of his sister, and once the fight started he had no intention of it ending in any way other than Gregor's death. We see later that many in Dorne are tired of the seeming inaction of Prince Doran in regards to revenge for Princess Elia, and Oberyn was chief among the dissenters. –  ssell Jun 4 at 15:51

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